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News :: Human Rights : Race
Lessons from Katrina: One Year Later
30 Aug 2006
“The source of the flood is not the water, is gentrification,” said Keric Johnson from the Builders Guild at a rally yesterday in Roxbury organized by the Rosa Parks Human Rights Day Committee to remember the ongoing suffering of the people of New Orleans from Katrina and its aftermath. “The land belongs to the people. It isn’t the water that drove us away, it’s the globalization of the economy, it’s the end of the post-industrial cities. We need to build a damn ourselves.”

Photos by Jonathan McIntosh
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos
“What we saw in Katrina was governmental institutional racist neglect in the most criminal and cruel order, and we believe we see that kind of racist neglect right here in Roxbury, Dorchester, in Mattapan, Charlestown… All these communities are dominated by the policy and corporatization of the government at every level,” said Steve Kirschbaum from United Steel Workers 751.

“The reason why America was catatonic is not because Katrina happened, it’s because no one believed that the fallacy of the American policies would be exposed to the world, no one was prepared for the mask to be ripped off the façade of the American dream,” said Keith Jones who was raised in New Orleans and St. Louis, Mississippi. His family’s property was washed out by Katrina only to be followed by greedy realtors who offered $500 to his brother for what was left of his home.

Thousands of victims faced forced evictions and rent price gouging months after the hurricane. Naomi Klein reported for The Nation in September 2005 that in the areas that sustained only minor damage and are on the mayor's repopulation list, there were at least 11,600 empty apartments and houses. In Jefferson Parish, that number soared to 23,270.

One year after Katrina, all of the public housing in New Orleans remains closed, windows and doors shut down with steel frames, even when they were left untouched by the storm. Democracy Now reported that only about half of New Orleans' population of 450,000 have been able to return, drastically altering the demographics of a city that used to be 67 percent black.

CorpWatch ( ) released a statement last year saying that the first large-scale contracts related to Hurricane Katrina , as in Iraq, were awarded without competitive bidding and guaranteeing contractors a certain profit regardless of how much they spent. This year they released a report called “Big, Easy Money. Disaster Profiteering in the American Gulf Coast” that confirms that contractors are making millions while local companies and laborers are left with nothing. They expose abusive "contracting charge pyramids" where the companies doing the actual reconstruction work often get only a tiny (and insufficient) fraction of the money awarded for projects.

“One year after disaster struck, the slow-motion rebuilding of the Gulf Coast region looks identical to what has happened to date in Afghanistan and Iraq. We see a pattern of profiteering, waste and failure - due to the same flawed contracting system and even many of the same players" said CorpWatch Director Pratap Chatterjee.

“It’s getting harder and harder for me to speak at public events and I’ll tell you why. As a public official I get a chance to see the government up close and personal: the way city government works, the way state government works, the way federal government works. Government is not about the interests of the people of the country,” said Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner.

“I think that if we recognize that there’s a sickness in this country’s leadership that is moving them to be destructive towards the resources of this country and abroad, then we have to have a strategy of fighting back,” he continued, “I think we need to move a lot of our elderly and a lot of our young out of cities and into farmlands. I think we need to begin to figure out how to feed and house the most vulnerable of our people.”

“I would like to see a redistribution of the wealth, I would like to see reparations for slavery, for indigenous genocide. I would like to see more money and land in the hands of people of color so that things can even out a little bit, so there can be some justice,” said Cassandra Clark Masariego from Urban Roots, a non-profit organization that reaches out to youth through hip-hop music and dance.

“You need to be aware that Katrina will not go away,” said Jones, “Today is the last day that we are going to be mad and do nothing about it, today is the last day we are going to be complacent and complain. From this day forward we will build our own houses, our own communities, and we will keep our own money to our damn selves.”

“We have to keep our energy up, but keeping our energy up without a plan for changing the conditions is a cheap high,” said Councilor Turner.
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos
Aug 29th Katrina Rally - Photos

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